COVID-19 vaccination cards will help to remind Americans that they need a second dose of the vaccine, about 3 to 4 weeks after the first.
These vaccine cards will serve as a back-up to the information stored by your healthcare providers, and they'll also ensure that you receive the same shot twice, rather than two different products.
In the future, officials may consider using cards to determine who still is at higher risk — and who could be exempted from COVID-19 restrictions due to their vaccination.
After a long year, healthcare heroes and frontline workers are currently receiving the first doses of a new COVID-19 vaccine across the country. Many Americans are still waiting to hear more about when it'll be time for them to sign up for a shot, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are already educating people about what's been referred to as the "COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card." It's a crucial step in the COVID-19 vaccine process, as nearly all of the vaccine products forthcoming to Americans (including Pfizer's shot, which was the first to receive emergency approval) will require people to return to a clinic after a first dose, anywhere from three to four weeks later.
What exactly is this card? The short answer: It'll be a CDC-issued card or a printout that your doctor, clinician, or pharmacist will give you during your first visit. Per the CDC's website, it'll clearly display the kind of vaccine you've received (meaning, which company made it), the date you received it, and where your first shot was administered.
The card's primary function is to encourage people to remember to come back for a second dose, as it's crucial for preventing future COVID-19 spread. These vaccine cards won't look or feel much different than appointment cards receptionists often give you for a future appointment, explains Crystal Tubbs, PharmD, associate director of pharmacy at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Vaccine cards are a failsafe to ensure that no errors could possibly be made when it's time for your second dose, Tubbs explains, even if you have to move or visit a different clinic. "As the vaccine becomes more readily available, patients may seek care from a variety of locations… the second dose must be from the same manufacturer," Tubbs tells Good Housekeeping. "Not all medical record systems 'talk' to each other, so this card serves as a backup of the most important information."
Tubbs adds that all administrators will retain all of the same information after your visit, but the card idea actually isn't new or unique to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
What information will be on a vaccine card?
The healthcare provider who administers the first half of your vaccine will input the following information on your COVID-19 vaccine card:
Date of birth
Patient number, which will be determined specifically by the administrators in charge of the clinic or pharmacy you're visiting.
The date you had your first vaccine administered.
Which shot you received, and the product or lot number for the specific vaccine.
Who administered your vaccine.
The date of your second vaccination, along with a reminder for the future appointment beforehand.
While it's highly unlikely and unexpected per trials conducted in 2020, those who experience any side effects with their vaccine will use the card to give more details to CDC officers. They'll start by having you report any symptoms to what's being called the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS.
Vaccine cards are already in use for when people receive shots for diseases like malaria and yellow fever. The World Health Organization has created an international certificate of vaccination that Americans can keep with them as they travel. As they relate to international travel, some cards are required as part of entrance materials into certain countries to prevent the spread of these diseases, especially if you live in an area where high risk is present (you can see the WHO's full list of travel requirements here).
Will COVID-19 vaccine cards be used for travel?
In April, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force suggested that vaccine cards or certificates for the COVID-19 vaccine may be used in 2021. "It's one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure that we know who the vulnerable people are and [who are] not," Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.
Federal officials have yet to confirm how COVID-19 vaccine cards may be used in regulation in the future, or if they'll eventually function similarly to the WHO's vaccination cards. But based on communication between the CDC and local medical experts, Tubbs says it's unlikely that these cards will be used for anything more than a reminder at first.
"At this time, I think requiring this card as 'proof of vaccination' would be very difficult to operationalize for a variety of industries," she explains. "In our society, where many things are moving to digital platforms, I think it would be unreasonable to think that a paper card, that could likely be lost, thrown away, duplicated or damaged, would serve as an official document for permission to travel, stay in hotels, and more."
Should I keep my COVID-19 vaccine card?
While officials haven't confirmed if they'll use COVID-19 vaccine cards for official purposes, the completed cards could be necessary for essential workers where vaccines (and vaccination records!) may be required down the line. Those working in public spaces — everyone from healthcare workers to teachers and service industry professionals — should do their best to retain their cards, but know that your healthcare provider will also retain the proof of immunization, Tubbs says.
Whether or not these cards will be used for travel is yet to be seen, but officials at the International Air Transport Association (a trade association representing 290 airlines) have already begun work on a similar alternative. According to CNN, a digital vaccine passport is being designed for travelers to use as proof they've been vaccinated at airports and international customs and borders.
The "passport" will display COVID-19 vaccine information that's been certified by medical professionals in a standardized form that airline personnel, as well as border authorities, can look to when you travel. The timeline is unclear, but you may soon access more than just your boarding pass via your mobile phone while traveling in the future.
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